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Cristina Forner - Fourth-generation wine producer & the CEO of Marqués de Cáceres since 2007.

How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.

I was born and educated in France. After studying business and administration in Bordeaux, I trained in enology and spent a short period at my family’s properties in the Haut-Médoc: Château Larose Trintaudon and Château Camensac (Grand Cru Classé). After this, I wanted to gain experiences outside of the wine industry, and I established my own real estate business in Paris. In those days, I had to borrow money at 15-17% interest, which proved to be the best education in working tirelessly and competitively in order to keep business going. After 6 years, my father asked me to join the winery to develop the export market. Moving from Paris to Rioja in 1984 was a difficult decision, yet in my mind, an essential one to honor my family. The history of my family is an example of achievement: immigrating to France during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, leaving behind their wine business in Spain, and starting Marqués de Cáceres from scratch in 1970 in Rioja Alta based purely on a dream, great motivation, and conviction in the project. On a smaller scale, when I arrived in Rioja from Paris in 1984, I tried to embody that same ambition, working through thick and thin against all odds. So, when my father retired in 2007, I took over the company as President and CEO.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

When I arrived to Rioja, I was impressed by the region and its landscape: vineyards located at high altitudes, 2 chains of mountains forming a barrier and a microclimate, superb wines, and a great opportunity to communicate at a time when Rioja was not well-known outside Spain. When I started traveling around the world in 1985, I was adamant about propelling the rich legacy of our wines. Since then, I have been developing the existing markets and opening new ones, always with the history, commitment to quality, prestige, and consistency of our wines in mind. Today, we’ve grown to export 50% of our total production to over 130 countries.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Wine itself. The pursuit of quality is what drives me. Hard work, creativity, and dedication to every small detail, from the terroir to the final product, are key to crafting wines of soul and singularity. When my father retired in 2007, I took over the company and expanded from Rioja into the best D.O. in Spain, from Rueda to Ribera del Duero and beyond, with multiple variety expressions at various price points. With the goal of becoming the reference point for the best wines from all across Spain, we recently acquired our Finca La Capilla winery in Ribera del Duero and joint ventures to produce new wines (our Deusa Nai Albariño white, our Cava and, more recently, our Garnacha from Cariñena).

Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?

At the beginning of my career, my aim was to learn from experienced people and to grow professionally, so I was always humble and patient, and adopted a cautious attitude. Maybe for that reason, I haven’t noticed any particular prejudice or different treatment towards me. I feel lucky to say that overall I have received more support and collaboration than prejudices. Being a woman involved in the wine business, and one who is convinced of the value of her endeavors, has afforded me some beautiful opportunities.

Women are victims of the patriarchy as well, and are often more judgmental of other women as a result. How can we as women become more aware of our own prejudice towards each other and change that behavior?

I was educated in a traditional way, where parents are an authority to be respected. I always had a strong relationship with my father. On my return from trips (I was traveling almost 6 months a year when I joined the business), we were particularly happy to spend time together and chat about business, our views on new market trends, and international economies. However, it is true that when my father became older, he was reluctant to specific changes. But with patience and diplomacy, I gradually was able to persuade him to see my vision, and to pursue changes that would lead towards greater innovation and flexibility for the company. It was important that he understood I was not competing with him, but that I had my own perspective. At Marqués de Cáceres, we have many women working in various positions from winemakers to managers, and value keeping an open mind and supporting one another. Of the seven members of the board of Directors, three are women. I am very interested in supporting young professional women who need to gain more confidence and experience rather than throw in the towel. Education is the key to unlocking career objectives and personal achievements. In my view, education is the way to promote equality at school, university, home, and work. Women of influence have demonstrated that professional dreams are the result of hard work and sacrifice. We are used to constantly juggling priorities to manage home, family, and work responsibilities. It is my opinion that governments and institutions should provide structures that help women with their personal and family obligations while looking to grow professionally. Diversity in the workplace is not only a social responsibility that we must pursue, but also is the answer to building an economy rich with varying skills and perspectives.

When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?

Quality, diversity, and versatility. Women have a lot to bring to the table. Something I have noticed and appreciated alongside women in the industry is an openness to experimentation, trying different styles of wine, and a deep appreciation for life’s moments further enhanced by a good meal and an excellent glass of wine. At Marqués de Cáceres, we have a wide scope from Rioja, Rueda and Ribera del Duero which include excellent whites, rosés and a great range of reds. All those wines are produced in top Spanish DO’s, they offer great personality at different price points to respond to any occasion and mood.

What changes do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?

My father taught me that short-lived battles are never won. Wine itself is an endless journey that can carry us throughout our lifetimes, and as a result, we must seek long-term change in the industry. Wine has great historic value to defend, and women have a lot to contribute in moving the wine industry forward. There are still many existing opportunities in the wine business for women, from making wine, to pouring it, selling it, or marketing it. Women have the skills to occupy the highest positions. We just need to believe we can achieve it.

What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?

A message to pursue: work with conviction, sacrifice, persistence, passion, and full commitment. Personally, I would say to them that the wine world is endlessly fascinating, and allows you to engage with different cultures, countries and gastronomy. It is a great way to become a leader, to dedicate yourself to quality, and to enjoy special moments around a dinner table with inspiring people.

What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

Wine should have no barrier, no frontier, only a wide space and world where diversity is understood as an opportunity to improve quality and offers.

In what ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?

Working with my team every day and with our international structure which comprises so many valuable women. Opportunities to pursue your dreams are there, and I have no doubt women can catch them.

What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?

Does the wonder woman exist? I think it is a dream: we can’t be the best everywhere all the time, but can do our best with the time we have, both with our families and at work. We must always look to achieve what we have set out for ourselves.

What other women of wine do you admire and why?

It is impossible to name all of incredible women with energy, talent, and determination who have overcome difficulties and pursued their passions. However, to name a few… María Jose Lopez Heredia, Marisol Bueno, Mireia Torres, Maria Isabel Mijares, Jancis Robinson, Pilar Cavero, María Vargas, Vitoria Pariente,….. and so many more to come.
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